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To teach vain wits a science little known,

To admire superior sense, and doubt their own! 200


Causes hindering a true judgment. 1. Pride, ver. 201. 2. Imperfect learning, ver. 215. 3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole, ver. 233 to 288. Critics in wit, language, versification, only, 288, 305, 339, &c. 4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire, ver. 384. 5. Partiality-too much love to a sect-to the ancients or moderns, ver. 394. 6. Prejudice or prevention, ver. 408. 7. Singularity, ver. 424. 8. Inconstancy ver 430. 9. Party spirit, ver. 452, &c. 10. Envy, ver. 466. Against envy, and in praise of good-nature, ver. 508, &c. When severity is chiefly to be used by the critics, ver. 526, &c.

Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is pride; the never-failing vice of fools.
Whatever nature has in worth denied,

She gives in large recruits of needful pride!
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find

What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind:
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
Trust not yourself; but, your defects to know
Make use of every friend-and every foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing!
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the height of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;



But more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So, pleased at first, the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky!
The eternal snows appear already pass'd,

And the first clouds and mountains seem the last :
But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey

The growing labours of the lengthen'd way : 231
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

A perfect judge will read each work of wit With the same spirit that its author writ: Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight, The generous pleasure to be charm'd with wit. But, in such lays as neither ebb nor flow, Correctly cold, and regularly low,


That, shunning faults, one quiet tenor keep;
We cannot blame indeed-but we may sleep.
In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts

Is not the exactness of peculiar parts;
"Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome
(The world's just wonder, and e'en thine, oh Rome!
No single parts unequally surprise;

All comes united to the admiring eyes:


No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear: The whole at once is bold, and regular.

Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,


Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
every work regard the writer's end,
Since none can compass more than they intend;
And if the means be just, the conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due.
As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,
To avoid great errors, must the less commit;

Neglect the rule each verbal critic lays ;
For not to know some trifles, is a praise.
Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
Still make the whole depend upon a part:
They talk of principles, but notions prize,
And all to one loved folly sacrifice.

Once on a time, La Mancha's knight, they say, A certain bard encountering on the way, Discoursed in terms as just, with looks as sage, As e'er could Dennis, of the Grecian stage; Concluding all were desperate sots and fools, Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our author, happy in a judge so nice, Produced his play, and begg'd the knight's advice; Made him observe the subject, and the plot, The manners, passions, unities; what not? All which, exact to rule, were brought about, Were but a combat in the lists left out.

What! leave the combat out?' exclaims the knight. Yes, or we must renounce the Stagyrite.'- 280

Not so, by heaven! (he answers in a rage) 'Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the stage.' 'So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain.'— 'Then build a new, or act it on a plain.'


Thus critics of less judgment than caprice,
Curious, not knowing, not exact, but nice,
Form short ideas; and offend in arts
(As most in manners) by a love to parts.

Some to conceit alone their taste confine,
And glittering thoughts struck out at every line; 290
Pleased with a work where nothing's just or fit;
One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskill'd to trace
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover every part,
And hide with ornaments their want of art.
True wit is nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd ·


Something, whose truth convinced at sight we find ;
That gives us back the image of our mind.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit;
For works may have more wit than does them good,
As bodies perish through excess of blood.

Others for language all their care express,
And value books, as women men, for dress:
Their praise is still,-the style is excellent;
The sense, they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Its gaudy colours spreads on every place;
The face of nature we no more survey,
All glares alike, without distinction gay:
But true expression, like the unchanging sun,
Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon:
It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent as more suitable :
A vile conceit in pompous words express'd,
Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd;
For different styles with different subjects sort,
As several garbs, with country, town, and court.
Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense;
Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style,
Amaze the unlearn'd, and make the learned smile.
Unlucky, as Fungosa in the play,

These sparks with awkward vanity display
What the fine gentleman wore yesterday;
And but so mimic ancient wits at best,
As apes our grandsires in their doublets dress'd.
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold;
Alike fantastic, if too new or old :

Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.



But most by numbers judge a poet's song; And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong: In the bright muse though thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; 340 Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, Not mend their minds; as some to church repair, Not for the doctrine, but the music there. These equal syllables alone require, Though oft the ear the open vowels tire; While expletives their feeble aid do join, And ten low words oft creep in one dull line : While they ring round the same unvaried chimes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes; Where'er you find the cooling western breeze,' 350 In the next line it 'whispers through the trees :' If crystal streams with pleasing murmurs creep,' The reader's threatened (not in vain) with 'sleep ;' Then at the last, and only couplet fraught


With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,

That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know

What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
And praise the easy vigour of a line,
Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness



True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense:
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to thro
The line too labours, and the words move slow : 370

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